Here's the article:
Undress Your Mac for Thrills
By Leander Kahney
2:00 a.m. March 1, 2002 PST
Apple's new flat-panel iMac is just starting to show up at people's homes in large numbers, and its arrival is prompting a strange manifestation of techno fetishism: People are holding iMac unpacking ceremonies for friends and family.
Resembling a tea ceremony, the unpacking of a new iMac has taken on some distinctly ritualistic touches: The iMac arrives in the mail. People are invited over. They gather around the boxed computer in the center of the room. Drinks are poured, lights lowered, candles lit. And while the new machine is unwrapped, someone takes pictures to post on the Web.
There are at least a half-dozen webpages documenting every stage of the unpacking and setting up of a new iMac. Examples can be found here, here and here.
The pictures, like amateurish porn, are badly lit and blurry. And they follow a predictable sequence: the unopened box, the opened box, unpacking the mouse. And they always end with the same money shot: the new iMac sitting on someone's desk.
In a recent forum thread at MacNN, one poster admitted he'd rather look at pictures of a partially unpacked iBook than pictures of partially unclothed women.
Philip Torrone, who documented his unpacking ceremony with dozens of murky pictures and three badly lit movies, invited his fiancé and a friend (a psychologist) to his Minneapolis apartment to experience the unwrapping of his new iMac. He likened the occasion to Christmas morning.
"You savor every moment," he wrote in an e-mail. "You don't open it like an ordinary box. This is something magical. Perhaps it was the two glasses of wine or the new iMac smell -- a cross between Styrofoam and newly molded plastic -- but it was amazing. Each piece carefully wrapped, the DVDs, the special gray rag for the screen. It's as if Steve Jobs packed it himself. We wanted to wear rubber gloves when we unpacked it.
"Like all new Apple gear, it belongs in a museum and shouldn't be touched (fingerprints). I'm pretty sure it's as close to sex as you can get with a machine. I mean look at this photo."
Torrone, director of product development for Minneapolis advertising agency Fallon Worldwide, ordered his new iMac from Apple's Web store. Before it arrived, he checked the status of his order every day. He haunted rumor sites and chat forums to see if other people had received their machines. He even visited a local Apple store just to look at the new iMacs on display. When his iMac finally arrived, he took the day off work.
"It's like 'senioritis,'" he said. "I couldn't do anything or even think when I knew the box was sitting there waiting."
Dean Browell, a Web designer from Virginia, was invited with his wife to a setting-up ceremony at the home of friends Andrea and David Zuschin.
"It was just us, a beer or two, and the attention totally focused on the new machine," Browell said. "It was truly neat. There is no way a PC user invites friends over just to see their new computer. That kind of excitement is wholly unique to Mac culture, and with an item glowing with personality like the new iMac, it's easy to fall in love."
Andrea and David Zuschin said they felt like "proud parents" when they took the iMac out of its box.
"We weren't sure what to do with it, we just wanted to stare at it," said David Zuschin. "Do we put a light cloth over it and be very quiet? I felt like we should get a baby monitor or something."
Before it had even arrived, the Zuschins had named their new iMac 'Bootsie.'
Browell said he and his wife were as keen to see the new iMac as the Zuschins. "We were invited because we were as excited as they were," he said.
The Zuschins had kept the Browells informed of the new iMac's progress as it was built and shipped from Taiwan.
The Zuschins didn't document the birth of Bootsie for posterity. But many others have. The unpacking photo essay was probably started by Andy Gore, former editor-in-chief of Macworld magazine. In the last couple of years, Gore wrote a series of salivating and slightly eccentric reviews of Apple hardware, accompanied by pictures of the box that just arrived in the mail, the box with the flaps open, etc.
Even Slashdot, which normally adopts a cool stance toward Mac users, is getting into the spirit of things. The site recently posted a link to an unpacking site.
Slashdot editor Timothy Lord, who posted the link, said he shares the technolust; he takes pleasure in seeing other people feverishly unwrap their new toys.
"It's much more frugal to experience these things vicariously," he wrote in an e-mail. "When the new iMac is under ($1,000), I'd like one, too."
Lord said the new iMac is not the first piece of hardware to be honored with unpacking pages. He'd seen similar photo series for game consoles like the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox, and expensive gadgets like digital cameras. Lord said unpacking pictures are often posted right after the gadget's release, when it's in short supply and wildly pricey.
"Maybe it helps justify all the expense that goes into acquiring new technology, out on the edge of a price curve that will inevitably drop," he wrote.
"Sometimes these unpacking sites are the only way to see what the systems look like from a user perspective, or to know what to really expect in the box," he added. "Sometimes sites like this also show what the companies prefer not to talk about, which is that the goods can arrive with considerably different accessories or quality of instructions."
Sometimes the goods barely arrive at all: Tatsuaki Ryu's iMac unpacking page shows what happens when a computer is shipped at the bottom of a partially submerged container. But despite arriving soaking wet and covered in mud, Ryu's iMac still worked. "BTW, the machine is simply amazing," Ryu said.
This story will be adapted for Leander Kahney's forthcoming book about the Macintosh culture, The Cult of Macintosh, to be published later this year by No Starch Press.
Copyright © 1994-2002 Wired Digital Inc. All rights reserved.
Things Ain't What They Seem!
Things Ain't What They Seem!